three hands holding apples

Four seasons are one of the perks of living in the Midwest. OK, winter can be hard to love sometimes, but still. Here are some suggestions for things to do in the second half of the year that will get you out of the house and enjoying everything Iowa has to offer in the fall and winter. 

Visit an Iowa orchard … or two

Orchards aren’t just for picking apples anymore. Here are a few of our favorites. 

Center Grove Orchard, Cambridge, Iowa

You can ride a burlap bag down a giant slide on a hill overlooking the most picturesque Iowa countryside. And they have apple cider donuts. And there are goats. And caramel apples. And pumpkins. And a hundred other super-fun activities for everyone in the family. But don’t forget the apple cider donuts.

Deal’s Orchard, Jefferson, Iowa

Deal’s Orchard has all the fun fall activities we’ve come to expect at orchards, but with a less crowded, more laidback environment. This orchard has been around for decades and recently started fermenting and bottling its own delicious hard cider: Be sure to pick up a six-pack.

Uncle Bill’s Farm, Grinnell, Iowa

Ranked one of the best pumpkin farms in the country, Uncle Bill’s Farm has been providing families with fall fun for over 25 years. If you make your way there, you won’t be disappointed by the live beehive, corn pool, giant yellow jumping pillow, and the Uncle Bill Express train.

Cheer on your favorite Iowa college team

Whether you’re a Hawkeye fan, Cyclone fan, or unsure which mascot represents each state college, taking in a college athletic event can provide a few hours of excitement and camaraderie as you root, root, root for the home team with hundreds of fellow Iowans. Pick a college and enjoy a stadium full of fun in the fall, then take the party inside the court in the winter. Check out each team’s athletic schedule below. 

Iowa State

Get your pumpkin savory on

Fall is pumpkin mania! Explore the wide world of pumpkin-inspired dishes. Just search for “recipes with pumpkin” and go crazy. Here’s a starter — Pumpkin Alfredo. Or if you prefer a more interactive approach to learning how to make mouth-watering comfort food, signup for a cooking class with Cooking with Alessandra.  

Hit the wintry “slopes” of Iowa

Want to feel like a kid again? Take your kids or a group of friends and hit up nearby sledding hills. Here are two great locations — behind the Simpson College softball fields in Indianola and the hill east of the judicial building at the state capitol complex. And when you’re finished, treat yourself to a giant mug of hot chocolate.

Harvest your own Christmas tree

Hunt for the perfect fun, old-fashioned family Christmas tree at the Miller Tree Farm in Runnells. The Miller family has been growing Christmas trees since they planted their first seedling in 1954. After you’ve walked their fields and found the perfect tree (don’t pull a Griswald and forget the saw!), warm up inside the barn and pick out one of their handmade wreaths or swags.

Sip seasonal beer!

As fall and winter approach, beer enthusiasts turn to bigger-bodied brew, often with higher alcohol content, bigger malt, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves that deliver a warming effect. Most Des Moines breweries have seasonal releases this time of year, so belly up to the bar and check out the local craft brewers take on dark ale, porter, imperial stout, and more. Always drink responsibly. 

That’s just a few activities to get you started. And if this list isn’t enough to get you through until next spring, check out this post on How to survive an Iowa winter.

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